I think I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but better late than never! “The Dragon’s Path” is the first book in a series by Daniel Abraham (half of the duology that makes up James S. A. Corey, the author of the Expanse series of novels) that goes by “The Dagger and the Coin”, of which the fourth volume, “The Widow’s House”, was just released last week. Much to my chagrin, I had not read any of this series – but after slamming through “The Dragon’s Path” in just a couple of days (and thoroughly enjoying the ride) I don’t think it’s going to take me very long to catch up!
“The Dragon’s Path” is an epic fantasy set in a Medieval type world full of nobles, court intrigue, traveling players and orphans (but alas, no dragons – their time seems to be over, although they live in legend, stonework and tapestry). Its characters are wonderfully wrought, its storyline is both familiar and unique, and its world comes alive under author Abraham’s deft touch. “The Dragon’s Path” tells the tale of a country in turmoil as a status quo is assailed from the shadows even as its enemies bow and curtsey within regaled society, and follows a handful of key players who have various reasons for living lives of their own choosing.
There is Geder, the pudgy son of a somewhat laughingstock noble house (more interested in books than warfare!) who makes a deplorable soldier and is used as a pawn in the political games being played, yet whose decisions unwittingly have unexpected consequences, throwing off intricately laid schemes of the rich and powerful. There is Marcus, the worn down and worn out heroic warrior, who wants little more than to be forgotten – and to forget the horrors that haunt his dreams. There is Cithrin, a young woman who grew up as the ward of a banking house, and whose quick mind found purchase in lending practices and financial principles as other children did in nursery rhymes; it falls on her to smuggle a clandestine hoard of wealth from one fallen city to safe harbor – but will she be able to withstand chaos – and temptation – when they threaten to bar her way? And there is Master Kit, the grey haired leader of a motley crew of traveling players, who’s voice draws in audiences, who speaks like a priest, and whose gentle eyes seem to see more, much more, than he lets on. None of the main players is the archetype of “good”; they all have failings and often do unscrupulous and even horrific things, yet neither are they evil.
But beyond the characters, what I found so wonderful, so refreshing about this book is that although it is clearly a work of epic fiction, it’s drama unfolds on tableaus beyond just the battlefield and the throne room. It also takes place in humble banking offices, on caravan trails, in temples long hidden from the world, and in manor house parlors and sitting rooms. Not all the action is played out on the point of a sword – but just enough of it to keep the stakes high. This makes “The Dragon’s Path” feel so much more inclusive and expansive than many other works in the genre – and it has me eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. If you’re looking for some good, epic fantasy to sink into, pick up a copy of “The Dragon’s Path” – and be ready to start a fantastic adventure!